Lookin’ back on it, 73-year-old Reverend Billy James Brewster remarked sadly, “Just like Casey Stengel, I never shoulda showed up. I shoulda ‘stood’ in bed.”
Three people had been saved and Brother Billy was rushin’ to get them baptized. The Bible isn’t clear about what happens if the newly-saved die before bein’ baptized, but Billy wasn’t takin’ any chances.
The new converts chose not to be baptized in Long Bottom Creek but to use the church baptistry instead. The deaconesses swept out the spiders and empty coke cans and scrubbed the baptistry so the deacons could fill it with water. Emma Pruitt washed the ragged white graduation gowns donated to needy Baptist churches by the county high school.
The baptistry had a 2 foot high piece of clear glass across the front, so we could all be sure the dunkin’ was a complete immersion, I guess. There was a Methodist church in nearby Elkin so if people didn’t want to be dunked, they could go down there to be sprinkled. We called them “Wussy Christians” not to be baptized the Biblical way.
Come Sunday night, everything was ready. After some singin’ and a short sermon by Billy entitled, “Sprinklers Belong in Your Yard and Not in Your Church”, the three candidates for baptism were introduced to the congregation. Each one testified and promised to support the church with their attendance and their tithes. (The pastor’s “Welcome Letter” would gently remind them of that second promise.)
First, Billy led Sandra Billings down the steps into the water. Like the others she wore only her underwear under the heavy graduation gown which was okay because you couldn’t see through it. Billy put a folded, white handkerchief over Sandy’s nose and baptized her in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
“Amen” and “Praise God!” we shouted and clapped as she made her way up out of the baptistry.
Next came Clarence, her husband, who was slender and not likely to bother Billy’s annoying hernia.
Finally, it was Juney Orr’s turn and that’s when everything started coming apart at the seams, so to speak.
First of all, Juney was scared to death of water. Second of all, she was a mite short at 4 foot nine inches. And third of all, she weighed just shy of 225 pounds.
As Billy led Juney carefully down the steps, her graduation gown began to float on top of the water. It spread out like a huge parachute over the Battle of Normandy. Billy reached over quickly and placed his folded, white handkerchief over her nose and that’s when it happened.
“I’ve dropped her!” Billy yelled, reaching for the microphone. Instantly Matt Campbell, who runs the old sound system donated by the high school, banged down on the “off” button so hard that it created a boom loud enough that everyone thought the furnace had exploded in the basement. If Matt hadn’t cut the power instantly, Billy would have been electrocuted. What on earth was Billy a-thinkin’?
Terrified, everyone jumped to their feet, many rushing out the open front doors. Sister Ella Johnson, not realizing her foot was sleep, jumped up from her pew and crashed down between the rows of seats breaking her ankle. A fleeing church member knocked Shirley’s baby out of its carrier and the baby was screaming bloody murder.
And Brother Billy kept searching for Juney under that voluminous graduation gown, scared to death he might grab some part of her that might not be acceptable in church or anywhere else, for that matter.
Suddenly, two fat, little bare feet came straight up out of the water, churning and splashing furiously.
Four deacons sprinted over the altar rail and up onto the platform to assist. Finally, Billy felt what he hoped was an arm, pulled it up and it was Juney, with the graduation gown wrapped around her neck and her underwear a-showin’.
Now, Juney, having been a bar maid before she was saved, let go with a string of bar room words before she finally coughed and choked, “What are you people tryin’ to do? Drown me?”
It was pure, total chaos but it had two redeeming qualities:
In the back row, all the teenagers stood on their pews a-laughin’ and high-fivin’ each other, vowin’ to never miss another service at this crazy, excitin’ church.
And two weeks later, waiting her turn beside the baptismal fount at Elkin Methodist Church, stood a very contented Miss Juney Charlene Orr.
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